Don’t Get Caught Out When Buying Your Next Chiller
You’ve heard the phrase “comparing apples to apples” as shortform for highlighting the importance of comparing on a like for like basis. This certainly applies to chillers, especially if you’re choosing between a HVAC chiller and a process chiller. In this article we’ll explain the differences between the two, to help you choose the best option for your specific needs.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning. A HVAC chiller heats and cools air. This type of unit is designed to regulate environmental temperature within a designated area. Often referred to as air conditioning chillers, they are ideal for commercial comfort cooling applications.
The purpose of a process chiller is to directly cool a specific industrial, or manufacturing process. Chiller applications are endless and so many things that we encounter in day-to-day life rely on temperature control. From the cars we drive, to the food & drinks we consume, the technological infrastructure we rely on daily, the commodities within our homes and even the medicines or MRI scans we might need if feeling unwell, process cooling will have been involved in some point.
The main difference between the two types of chiller is the way they cope with temperature. In a comfort cooling scenario, the change in temperature tends to be quite gradual. However, in a process environment, there’s more fluctuation and temperature extremes. A process isn’t static, so the chiller needs to work much harder – and longer – than it would in a typical HVAC application.
Process chillers work to close approach temperatures, which helps them to efficiently deal with these varying demands. The key component parts, such as the compressor, evaporator, and integral pump(s), are specifically designed for industrial or process use. They also have more thermal mass, to cope with extreme fluctuations of return fluid. If you were to use a non-process chiller on an industrial application, it’s compressor would soon struggle to cope and fail.
In the UK, a HVAC chiller in an air conditioning system will only need to run in the warmer months. Whereas process chillers are often on production lines manufacturing 24/7, with no room for downtime. If an air conditioning application goes wrong, people get warm, but the impact doesn’t tend to be as far reaching as when a critical process fails. For example, if cooling fails in a data server, access to online services such as banking, business and retailers is compromised casing losses in sales, productivity, and brand reputation.
A HVAC chiller will be less expensive than a process chiller. That’s because they’re designed differently. Process units need to be much more robust, with different component parts. Process chillers are often described as “packaged chillers” because ancillaries like pumps and tanks are included. They also tend to have options for customisation, whether that’s things like non-ferrous water circuit or special paint finishes for aggressive or coastal environments. Whilst the capital outlay will be more, the technical benefits, peace of mind and energy savings offered by a process unit will more than compensate.
So, what type of chiller do you need? This is down to what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re looking for a cost-effective comfort cooling solution, then a HVAC chiller should be fine. But, if your application involves process cooling, you need a unit built for that purpose.
When talking to your chiller specialist, it’s imperative to check exactly what type of chiller they’re suggesting – especially if there’s a drastically difference in price! This case study illustrates how an Aqua client was initially offered a much cheaper cooling system than what we’d proposed. But, on closer inspection, it became evident that they were being offered HVAC, rather than process chillers. In the end our customer upgraded to free cooling process chillers. Their free cooling upgrade actually incurred a further investment of £60,000, but they’ll save £80,000 every year!
For free advice, technical support and to check you are comparing apples with apples, chat to the team on 0333 004 4433!